Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham
Q: (Defensive Linemen) Leonard (Williams) is not being the disruptive, active player that he was last year in a lot of spots this year. Can you pinpoint what's going on?
A: I think one thing – again, it's early in the season, but okay, whatever. I think there's just some stuff that, whether it's putting him in the right spot more often, I think we've got to take a hard look at that, too. Anytime a player like that – disruptive, the history – when you go back and evaluate especially as the coordinator it's like, alright, I've got to find spots for this guy. I've got to figure it out, put him over the people that you perceive as the weaknesses, so it starts there schematically, doing a better job there from me. And then for him, it's definitely not a lack of effort, I know that. He's playing hard, he's working hard in practice and sometimes you just hope it comes in bunches at some point. I know it's not from a lack of effort and the skill set is still there. I would say it starts with me helping him find better places to put him at, improving that and then hopefully it starts to click at some point, whether it's taking advantage of technique or hitting something a little bit quicker. That's what we're working on today and that's what we're working on this week, but obviously got to do a better job.
Q: Do you need more from him on the field though? I mean, he's your highest-paid player, he was by far your top pass rusher last year in regard to pretty much every number you can come up with. Do you need him to play better or do more even in order for this defense to be where you guys want to take it?
A: I think collectively, honestly, we all have to do better. Obviously, what we're doing right now hasn't been good enough and that's what practice is for and the meetings are for. For Leo in particular, again, because it's not a lack of effort and the skill set is still there – yeah, would you want more production? But the production is going to come. I think one, again, (it starts) with me doing a better job of what I have to do and then really, I think sometimes it comes in waves. I'm not predicting anything, but because it's not a lack of effort and will – because, again, you guys talk to Leo, this is a great kid and he's trying hard. What I don't want him to start doing is pressing. I don't want him to do that. I don't want him to do that, so I think it starts with me and (Defensive Line Coach Sean) Spence (Spencer) getting him in the right spots and then from there hopefully it comes in bunches. Obviously, there's some technique stuff we could work on. Everybody would say that based on where we're at right now, but you need your best players to play well. You need that. That's a true statement.
Q: You understand because of what he gets paid the eyes are going to go instantly to him, right?
A: And it's not even about the money to me. I mean, I don't talk about money. It's our best players have to play well. That's how the league is set up, your best players have to play well. You watch the teams – again, you talk about the Rams in terms of their offense, (Rams Quarterback Matthew) Stafford, he's playing well. He's playing well, he's one of their best players. The backs are playing well. They trade for (Rams Running Back) Sony (Michel), they've got the young guy, they're playing well. The offensive tackles, those guys are big bodies, they're the guys that – I mean, I don't how much money, nor do I care – but they're considered their best players. They're playing well in terms of limiting the sack production for the other teams. Then, on top of that, you've got the receivers. The best players have to play well. That's how the league is set up, whether it's the infusion of youth and the special teams or different spots, but teams pick and choose who they're going to pay and all that stuff like that. But the best players have to play well.
Q: Are you surprised the rushing defense has fallen off the way it has? I mean, you just said your best players have to play well. You have Leonard Williams and you have (Defensive Lineman) Dexter Lawrence (II) on your defensive line.
A: Surprised? I mean, here's the thing, we're not doing enough right now with the rushing defense obviously. That's obvious. Two back-to-back games of poor production in terms of run defense, so I don't want to say 'surprised,' but the thing is I know we have to work on it. I don't expect to give up 200 yards rushing, so that is a surprise. That's the simple answer to that, but we worked pretty hard at it yesterday and then we worked at it hard this morning. We have to find ways to improve it and it has to start fast. We have to start fast because, again, in this league everybody's going to hear from me, you're going to hear from coaches (that) it's a passing league. The issue is this, if you don't minimize the run game or stop the run game early, you're playing right into the coordinator's hand. In this league, it's a recipe for disaster, so that's the message. That's the goal, we have to stop the run, especially with (Rams Head Coach) Sean (McVay) and how he does such a good job running the ball. It's a simple scheme, but those guys know how to play it. Seldom do you see unblocked players. Seldom do you see wide receivers – I mean, they have a wide receiver core that will block anybody, they'll block D-ends, they'll block linebackers, so we've got to fix it and we've got to fix it fast because in this league if you can't minimize that run game especially early you're playing right into (the coordinator's) hands.
Q: One of things you did last season was simplify things. Is that something you've considered just so your guys can play faster?
A: Absolutely. Right now, when you do that self-evaluation and you're leading into the game, you have to start with yourself. That's what I do and I'm sure that's what you guys do in your profession, but we've got to simplify. How can I make it so we're playing faster, we're playing with confidence and everything? To me, the simpler we can make it – I know this, we have good players. We have good players. Let me let them play, does that make sense? So, if that means simplifying or doing a better job of coaching whatever the scheme is – doesn't mean we're going to challenge and ask them to do something, maybe get a check here or there, something like that – but it's definitely part of the process. Again, we're evaluating everything right now when you don't get the results you want. That's the only way I know how to coach and perceive, especially when you're going against an offense like this. They're so simple that you're like, maybe instead of being complicated it's better to be simple against their being simple. Not simple in a bad way, they're just simple and they execute.
Q: When you look at your defense through five games big-picture and you're coming off a game where you allowed the most yards this team has allowed since 2015, how disappointed are you by the performance? How unacceptable was that?
A: In terms of the yardage given up and the loss of the game, it's unacceptable. Period. It's unacceptable. We get paid – myself included – we get paid to win games. That's why (President and Chief Executive Officer) Mr. (John) Mara, (Chairman and Executive Vice President) Mr. (Steve) Tisch, (Senior Vice President and General Manager) Mr. (Dave) Gettleman and (Head Coach) Joe (Judge), (put me) in this position, to help win games. When you give up 500-plus yards in terms of offense, that's not usually winning football, so it's completely unacceptable. Completely unacceptable. In terms of that, again, what I have to do and what we have to do collectively as a group is we have to look at ourselves in the mirror and we've got to figure out what can we do better because, again, as you lead into this week – one of the most explosive offenses in the league, they've got players all over the place, the coach is a genius, the quarterback is smart, they can throw the ball, run. It's everything. It's a challenge and I talk to you guys about having a challenge and stuff like that after performances like that and now you've got the Rams coming in here, I mean we're going to find out. We're going to find out. I mean, we're going to find out. So, it's time. Again, myself, I'm starting with me first, we've got to find out. We've got to find out. We've got to get up there, we've got to stop the run, that's the goal for Sunday. We've got to minimize what they do on offense. We've got to find out. We've got to find out. To answer your question, it's unacceptable. It's unacceptable.
Q: What can you do as a coordinator when there are plays and calls you make where the ball goes through (Cornerback) Adoree's (Jackson) hands, the ball is through (Cornerback) James' (Bradberry) hands, they drop it and give the other offense a second chance? Is there anything you can do at a point when your best payers are even almost making the play and just giving it back for the offense? Where do you start to fix that?
A: The thing and how I look at it – it's a good question – how I look at it is the calls really to me don't matter. The calls don't really matter. Again, I try to put them in the right spot in terms of, okay, here's the situation, let me try to put them in the right spot and all that stuff like that. The thing is what I'm trying to do is put the guys in a position to make sure that I'm using their talents to the best in terms of, okay, do I want to have this guy in man-to-man coverage? Do I want to have this guy in zone coverage? What's the situation? Stuff like that. Again, the game is so imperfect all the time. I can't speak on what led up to that play, there's 20 million other things, you know what I mean? And I'm not trying to – this is not coach speak, there's 20 million other things, so to pinpoint that, it's hard for me to do that. I'm not trying to be disrespectful to your question, but, again, to me we all know collectively starting with me we have to coach better, we have to play better. I would just say this, whatever play you want to pinpoint – not in a bad way – there's other plays that lead up to that. I know I have a role in that in terms of whether it's awareness or just the right call, but the players we have – and, again, I'm just being honest – they work really hard out there. Again, for me, like I said, it's unacceptable. It starts with me improving and from there I've got to be a better leader and a better coach for these guys, and it'll come. It'll come.
Q: Do you sense a fire or embarrassment from the players?
A: What I sense is a sense of urgency. I'm not saying it was lacking before. Again, I'm telling you if you come out here for practice – I know you guys aren't out here for the duration of practice, but these guys work extremely hard. They do what we ask them to do. They do what we ask them to do and, again, a sense of urgency. I think they're excited about the challenge. You saw me, I couldn't help but get a little excited about it because it's one of the best offenses in the league, one of the best offensive minds in the league. Then, you've got (Rams Offensive Coordinator) Kevin O'Connell, who's the coordinator along with McVay. It's a challenge. I know these guys; I know these guys. That's why we do this. Again, I'm not trying to get theoretical or philosophical, I'm a competitor at the core of who I am. I played football when I was younger, I'm a competitor. This is going to be a competitive game against a team that's really, really good and you get to gauge and see, okay, where are you at? And right now, we need that. I think we need that. We need that. I know I need that. I'm looking forward to it and we'll find out.
Q: You were fired up talking about that Dallas game. Were your players as disgusted when they went back and watched the film the other day?
A: You would have to ask them. I think—
Q: What did you see from them though?
A: I think they knew we could do better, that we could do better. You're talking about the players? Yeah, they know we could do better, and they need we had to look in the mirror. We had a talk, we knew we had to do better, but the thing is that I appreciate about these guys and that's when you know you're starting to really get them to understand the NFL, they were able to flip the switch and understand we got the Rams next. Regardless of what happened the last (game) – even if we won, was I really going to be happy if we won? Probably not. You guys know my personality, I (would) not. If we gave up whatever many yards and we won, I'd still be upset about that, but I think the guys were able to flip the switch and they understand that we've got a good team coming in here and we're going to have to fight. It's going to be fun. It's a challenge, I'm looking forward to it and they've got good players, they've got a good scheme. Sunday it'll be time to rock and roll.